Teri Bullen

To Hays Galleria and Cote for their fried breakfast. Along with some orange juice and coffee this costs about the same as a visit to Ai Weiwei at the Royal Academy, so it’s not cheap, and neither is it as intellectually stimulating. It does, however, fill you up and you definitely won’t want another one in half an hour. And who would want a Chinese at this time of the morning, anyway? The two fried eggs beam forth like little twin suns and the bacon and sausages taste properly porky but the test of a good breakfast is the state of the mushrooms and tomatoes. It’s so nice to be able to report that these are good and fried, and pass the test with flying colours. No-one bothers to offer me any sauce, which is a little remiss perhaps but fair enough as the meal doesn’t need any extra artificial taste stimulators. On the downside, the cup of coffee could have been more generous and, however much I nod, twitch, wink and smile, I just can’t get the waiter’s attention to bring me the bill. In desperation I get up and gesticulate by the counter and finally I’m allowed to give someone my money and also then explain why I’m not leaving a tip, despite the food being so good.

Walk across the road to London Bridge station, get a train to Honor Oak and take the short walk to the crematorium.

Teri Bullen was an artist and curator who I met when helping to run Brixton Art Gallery in the 1980s. Of all the members of the Brixton Artists Collective that kept the place going – and there were a lot of good people as well as a fair number of hangers on, freeloaders and no-hopers – she was probably the person on whom one could most rely for sensible advice and practical help. She was a forthright proponent of multiculturalism, a great supporter of Women’s art and unstinting in her efforts to promote the value of textiles in fine art practice, something which was relatively unusual in the artworld at the time. Her support of all these causes came together most successfully and comprehensively in Soweto – The Patchwork of Our Lives, an exhibition of quilts and other textile work from the Zamani Soweto Sisters which she organised and which was probably the single most impressive and enjoyable exhibition ever held at Brixton Art Gallery.

Typical of her character, she left word that those attending her funeral should wear bright clothing. My light gray suit and floral tie combination seemed appropriate enough to me but was outshone, both figuratively and literally, by the sartorial vivacity exhibited by another pair of old Collective members – Eamon sporting a pair of striking mustard coloured trousers only slightly less intense than Guy’s lemon combat fatigues.

The secular ceremony included a poignant poetry reading from son Liam and music: Nina Simone sang Billie Holiday and Pavarotti sang an aria from Bizet but, for some reason, it was Bowie performing Life on Mars that brought the tear to my eye. Oh, how the potency of cheap music makes Cowards of us all.

After farewells to Maryilyn and Foxy, another pair of stalwarts from the good old days at Brixton, it’s back to Rita’s flat to exchange memories about Teri and grab a consoling g&t. With the addition of more g&ts, conversation drifts on to cover the construction of Rita’s new studio; the transformation of our friend and former artist Tony Moo Young into a fully-fledged guru-cum-swami; the relative merits of Diana Dors, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield; and the career highlights of Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr and Boris Karlof. When we finally get to a critical appraisal of Abbot and Costello, The Three Stooges and Hellzapoppin’ it seems an appropriate time to go home.


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